It is not uncommon for a primary care physician to refer patients to specialists if they require individualized care in a specific area. In fact, some patients may have a few doctors caring for them at any given time. Yet, when patients seek the care of many doctors as a way to obtain prescription medication, usually controlled substances or medication that has abuse potential, it is called doctor shopping. 

Doctor shopping occurs when patients manipulate the system to get what they want. In many cases, patients provide falsified information or hurt themselves on purpose in order to obtain drugs. Patients may deceptively engage in the following: 

  • Claiming to lose previous prescriptions or medications 
  • Denying receiving prescriptions from other physicians 
  • Pretending to have never taken the abusive medication previously 
  • Lying about symptoms or past medical history 

Some patients switch doctors regularly claiming communications problems, trouble schedule appointments or they have moved away from the office. 

When people go to fill their prescription at the pharmacy, they may not realize that the pharmacy team can pull up a history of controlled substance fills. This includes all controlled substances filled at different pharmacies and by different doctors. Pharmacists can tell whether a controlled substance has been filled by multiple doctors and/or at multiple pharmacies, and may report this abuse to physicians and authorities. 

Although people feel as though they have obtained a prescription legally through a doctor’s prescription, doctor shopping is illegal. If you get caught doctor shopping, you may face a large fine and jail time.